4. Make your decision and negotiate a price.
- Listen to your gut. (If the boat just doesn't feel right, don't talk yourself into it.)
- Know the asking prices of similar boats. (Do your research in advance. With almost all production boats, it's easy on the web to find other examples of the same boat for sale. Your surveyor should also advise you on the value of the boat.)
- Negotiate. Virtually all used boats are flexible in price, since there's always something that needs to be replaced, repaired, or upgraded. (The asking price of a used boat represented by a broker may be only 10% to 20% over the price the owner will accept - but an owner selling his or her own boat may have set the price much too high but will likely come down, especially if the boat has been on the market a long time.)
- Pay attention to time of year. With a larger boat, as the end of the season approaches, the owner will save the cost of winterizing and storage if you buy now - so you should ask for a lower price because you'll be paying these costs yourself. At the beginning of the season, the owner is likely more optimistic about finding a buyer and may be less open to negotiating.
- Negotiation for a new boat can be more difficult. But the economy affects boat sales, and the dealer may be willing to deal just as a new car salesman will. Don't hesitate to ask.
Recognize It's Not Forever
1. If this is your first sailboat, it's likely not your last. The more one sails, especially racers and overnight cruisers, the more one eventually starts dreaming about a faster, or bigger, boat.
- New boats rapidly depreciate the first few years, the same as new cars. Don't expect to get back anything even approaching what you paid for the boat.
- Used boats that are well maintained generally hold their value fairly well, assuming you got a good price to begin with. (A 20-year-old sailboat in good condition may command a price not much below that of the same model that is 15 years old in similar condition.)
- Do not expect to regain much of the cost of improvements. (You might install a new engine, for example, and assume you'll get most of its cost back when you sell - but in reality the new buyer will onlyl be thinking he's getting a running engine just the same as you did when you bought it.)
2. Keep up with boat maintenance and repairs.
- A boat that starts falling apart is unlikely to find a buyer at all. Boatyards around the country hold thousands of old boats no one will ever buy. Eventually the heirs pay the yard to have it towed off and junked.
3. Keep all your options open when it's time to change boats.
- Lots of sailors end up downsizing rather than moving up. Maybe you'll want a boat that is simpler and easier to handle. Maybe you'll get tired of boatyard fees and decide to manage by yourself with a trailer.
- Downsizing is a simple way to change boats without incurring new net costs.
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